05 September 2006

Slice Capades

Five reasons I am not joining the scrum against "Slice of Laodicea"
by Phil Johnson

I had a couple dozen points to make when I set out to write this post. But I can't deal with all those issues at once without writing a screed that would be ten times longer than the average PyroManiacs post. So I'm going to start with a single, relatively short, post that summarizes my bottom-line stance. Then I'll follow up in several future posts by addressing some of the specific complaints Slice's critics have enumerated.

For example, some of the replies to my post on "Guilt by Association" (GBA) have raised the specter of "legalism"; called the writers at
Slice hatemongers; and made other angry pronouncements about the motives underlying Slice and other "watchblogs." I intend to address those charges one at a time in a series of future posts, but here I'm going to narrow my focus a bit and simply explain why I do not intend to kowtow to those who insist I must deliver Slice's head to the post-evangelical bogosphere on a silver platter.

hen I posted on the subject of guilt by association a couple of weeks ago, one or two commenters immediately castigated me for not singling out Slice of Laodicea, arguably the most popular and prolific of the so-called "watchblog" sites devoted to exposing the many disturbing and dangerous influences under the ever-broadening circus tent of evangelical Christianity.

As a matter of fact, I've been taunted on numerous occasions over the past year for having a link to Slice in my blogroll, so I made it a point to explain that my remarks in the GBA post were neither prompted by nor aimed at anything recently posted at Slice.

The port side of the evangelical blogosphere hasn't stopped complaining.

Let me reply to those complaints: Have the contributors to Slice ever been guilty of the guilt-by-association fallacy? Probably. But as I said, what prompted my comments about guilt by association had nothing whatsoever to do with Slice. Did I have some moral duty to go through Slice's archives looking for an egregious example of GBA? One private e-mail admonished me quite severely for not doing so, in the interests of "objectivity."

Why?

Because there is a link to Slice in my sidebar, and therefore, ironically, some who claim to deplore the GBA fallacy insist I am ethically and morally responsible for anything they post at Slice. If they commit a fallacy, I share their guilt. By association.

Right.

Well, here are five reasons I'm not jumping on the anti-Slice bandwagon:

  1. The "evangelical movement" as most people would identify it today is shot through with worldliness, serious doctrinal error, gospel-compromise, and rank apostasy—and I'm glad for courageous people willing to point out that fact.
  2. "Evangelicals" willing to wink at practically any kind of compromise or worldliness in order to avoid conflict at all costs are a dime a dozen. Anyone who refuses to cave into that temptation ought to be encouraged.
  3. Most of the abominations highlighted at Slice really deserve a healthy dose of righteous indignation. Personally, I'm embarrassed that evangelical outrage is so easily mustered against the "tone" and "tenor" of a Slice post decrying youth ministry modeled after a circus sideshow while so few are outraged by the common practice of making a burlesque of evangelistic ministry.
  4. In other words, I happen to agree with Slice more often than not. It's exasperating to see how worldly and shallow the evangelical movement has become, and it's flat-out terrifying to think how far some evangelical leaders might go if they had no critics.
  5. We're commanded to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Is anyone seriously going to argue that Slice poses more of a threat to sound doctrine than the multitude of blogs on the post-evangelical fringe who deliberately blur or ambiguate every truth and who would like the church to conform to the world as much as possible?

That said, I'm eager to explore the problem of legalism (which I deplore as much as libertinism). I agree that important distinctions must be made between discernment and disagreeableness, criticism and censoriousness. I also hasten to add that my evaluation of some of Slice's commentors would not be altogether positive. But (trying to avoid the GBA fallacy) I refuse to blame the writers at Slice for everything their commentors say.

One last thing: Almost without exception, Slice's most outspoken critics have been guilty of the very same transgressions they complain most bitterly about. If anyone seriously doubts that, I'm prepared to cite some examples.

Phil's signature

45 comments:

ScottyB said...

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

2 Tim 2:24-26

It's my prayer that we be kind to all even in our rebuking, contending, and delivering.

Carla said...

Phil,

thank you for taking the time to explain your position on this. The one thing that strikes me as completely backwards is this:

"Personally, I'm embarrassed that evangelical outrage is so easily mustered against the "tone" and "tenor" of a Slice post decrying youth ministry modeled after a circus sideshow while so few are outraged by the common practice of making a burlesque of evangelistic ministry."

It is embarassing, but more than that it's quite telling where loyalties lie with many people. Rather than speak up themselves that such nonsense is just plain wrong, they essentially shoot the messenger, when anyone else speaks up, and dissect every word, and assign all sorts of imagined motives.

I'm one who has greatly appreciated over the years, your own stand for the faith and willingness to speak out about things that are wrong. Likewise, I also appreciate what they do at Slice, and why they're doing it.

SDG,
Carla

David C. Kanz said...

Re: Legalism

Legalism is not to be confused with a desire for orthodoxy or a defense of the same. Legalism, Biblically defined, is to make adherence to some law or rule requesite to salvation. (read Galatians)

Proper separation from the mindset of the cosmos, holiness, purity as goals for the Christian life are enjoined by the writers of the New Testament as well as the Old.

RE Guilt by Association

I have not seen this on the Slice site. Please point it out if it does exist remebering that those who minister in the public forum are subject to inspection and their public statements and associations open to discussion as well.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck---it probably is a duck.

Thanks for the clarification Phil and for the refusal to allow political pressure from evan-jellyfishism to determine your course. (You know what a jelly fish is---an invertabrate!)

donsands said...

I see where Slice aids the cause of Christ, which is to take the gospel and proclaim it in all the world, and to keep the gospel pure.

And of course this must be done in His grace, speaking the truth with kindness and in humility.
Also the Lord calls us to be light in the darkness. Eph. 5:8-12

We do need to keep one another accountable.
It can be so easy to get carried away, unless we have brothers and sisters who come along side and keep us focused on the Cross, and on our own hearts, and how deceitful they are.

DJP said...

It's my prayer that we rebuke, contend, and deliver, even in all our kindness.

Lindon said...

Remember that cartoon someone created of you standing on your own Island? Well, I was on the big cruise ship deck partying.... until a few years ago.

Then after a huge crisis, I searched scripture to try and make sense of that cruise ship and where it was headed with me on deck.

This site, Slice and others were instrumental in helping me by driving me to scripture...in context. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to many things.

I have a debt of gratitude to you both.

Martin Downes said...

Your enemies are never going to thank you for fighting them. God's Word is to be the only judge in matters of controversy, and that includes what tone of language is appropriate to use (deceitful workmen, blind guides, dogs etc).

But polemicists are not immmune from temptation even when their cause is right. And we are not free from errors caused by lazy or prejudiced research.

goodnightsafehome said...

A very good post. I think the important thing is to point out error very firmly and keep to the main point. It is very easy to say something unnecessarily derogatory and the whole force can be lost in a bun fight.

James Kubecki said...

Great post on a subject we all struggle with.

"Indignation has taken hold of me
Because of the wicked, who forsake Your law." - Psalm 119:53

We should be indignant about these things. I often wonder what Paul would say about concern over the tone of sites like Slice...

"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" - Galatians 4:16

Robert said...

Hey, you missed two ot three paragraphs in putting in links to Slice!

Jonathan Moorhead said...

I agree with Scottyb. Unfortunately, these debates often end up being a discussion about how someone said something vs. what is being said.

Randy said...

Theologically, I'm in total agreement. I write a lot opposing emerging church errors at my site. I agree on the GBA issue as well. My disagreement is in claiming that a youth outreach "makes a burlesque of evangelistic ministry." That's a pretty harsh claim.

Brock Gill has a lovely assistant in his illusions, but it's his modestly dressed wife. "Burlesque" is generally defined as mocking, ribald, striptease, etc. Those are pretty harsh words for a brother who is reaching out to a lot of teens with a clean illusionist show that is supplemented by music and performers like skateboarders. Have you ever seen Brock perform on TV or live? I've seen nothing dishonoring to the Lord in anything he does. Is it wrong for kids to enjoy watching talented skateboarders perform as part of an outreach? Why? We're not talking about Sunday morning church here. These are youth events that are entertaining, fun, and share the gospel with kids who are unlikely to set foot in a church. I don't see why that has to be mockingly associated with evil or nonsense.

David said...

My problem with the comments at slice is that they are moderated - every post is reviewed, and some of the slice posse regularly dog pile onto any issue, often with words and methods that are despicable.

If you moderate, do you have a responsiblity to either delete, edit or respond to those which need it?

Kevin Sorensen said...

Thanks Phil, once again, for a fair, gracious and Christ-exalting post. When the initial post came out, I wondered where you would land regarding "Slice" (while all the while hoping that you'd avoid the usual rants some have taken on against Ingrid's site). You not only put my heart at east, but say it will a biblical balance deserving of and expected from an elder. May God be glorified in all this.

Lilorfnannie said...

I am a Oneness Apostolic- for those of you who don't know, I commit the "grievious" sin of not accepting the doctrine of the Trinity. I have been a regular reader of Slice for a while now. I have conversed with Mr. Ken Silva, one of the most prolific authors on that site and a minister himself, a number of times via email. Even though we both understand that the Oneness doctrine and the trinity doctrine are mutually incompatible, and he has called it a heresy, he has infallibly been polite, kind, patient, and altogether pleasant. I have high respect for him and for that blog.

Steve said...

I am no swami of tolerance, and I have great appreciation for those who have the courage to speak the truth without compromise even when the kitchen gets hot. Much of what I see in today's church grieves me and there's no question it's become all the more urgent that we fight the good fight and earnestly contend for the faith.

Yet even among those who are supposedly on the same side of the battle, there is need for discernment as to the manner and method of taking a stand for truth.

I'm grateful for the diligence and spirit in which stands are taken right here on Pyromaniacs and on a handful of other blogs, including James White's blog and Faith & Practice.

Yet I wouldn't put Slice of Laodecia in the same category as the aforementioned blogs. The longer I watched the method and manner in which they pointed their fingers of indictment, the more I lost respect for them. About a couple months ago I simply stopped visiting their Website altogether.

I have no problem with TeamPyro keeping Slice on their blogroll. That's the team's perogative, and there's no GBA going on simply because the link is provided. The folks at Slice are responsible for their own antics. And those who are urging Phil to act as a referee have got it all wrong. Anyone who has a problem with Slice should take it directly to Slice.

Rebuke and correction are needed more than ever before in today's church. But in our zeal to affirm truth, we should always check ourselves against, among other things, slipshod research, inappropriate generalizations, an attitude of self-righteousness, and any sense of vindictiveness.

Tim Brown said...

Thanks for discussing this.

It is an awkward issue in many ways. People just don't understand the importance of confronting error. And I know from experience that many believe that expecting obedience to God's Word is the same as legalism. Not so.

I will, for one, admit that I have a hard time walking that line. My constant desire is to "get along" with every one. But I'm becoming more and more convinced that that "ain't" just going to happen. So, let the chips fall where they may. Then my other extreme is to lack grace.

But I'd rather mess up by taking a stand than deny our Lord (in practice) by not speaking up.

The more I read on blogs such as Team Pyro and Slice, the more amazed I am at how far afield the CHurch has gotten. By and large we'll buy into just about anything.

Years ago I worked at a large University and one of the profs there (sociology dept of all things!) said "If Jesus doesn't return soon, he owes Sodom and Gomorrah and apology! I won't comment on the validity of that statement save that I've since learned that the professing church wears alot of the shame.

Thanks again, Phil...

Tim
http://reformedgadfly.blogspot.com/

Gavin Brown said...

I once "attempted" to leave a comment at Slice. They had written a post about Len Sweet (who I am no fan of BTW) that was just overly harsh, calling him names, etc., simply for some ridiculous poem Sweet had posted on his wensite. I was critical of Slice in my comment, though still a gentleman and a scholar:)

Slice wouldn't allow the comment. I even emailed Ingrid to find out why they woudn't post my comment. No reply.

That sort of non-exchange leaves the reader feeling like Slice are Blog-o-bullies (I just made that up).

Just thought I'd weigh in since you were discussing one of my favorite blogs...NOT.

Even So... said...

I have linked to Slice on my blogroll from the beginning, and that link remains...

We must often learn to separate emotion from intent, forget the commentors, look to the info they (slice) provide, check the sources, and use the wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 5:21...

It isn't all or none, and perhaps they should consider their ways more often, yet this minstry they provide is

1. valid - there are a lot of problems in the church today, and discernment seems to be at an all time low

2. vital - people need to know, and this site gives reports on matters that may not be near you now, but are coming your way soon...

3. vibrant - people are helped, they learn to discern, and yes, even by their faults, people learn to discern about them as well as from them.

Think about that last point...

I don't like everything they do, and some posts are over the top, for sure, but they are doing somethng we need done, they are saying it in a way that often needs to be said, and someone's got to do it...

Ken Silva said...

Phil,

Thank you for what I see as a balanced position regarding Slice. As a contributor there I can say that right-wrong, good, bad or indifferent, we follow the Lord to the best of our ability and cast no aspersions upon any others of a personal manner.

What a blessing for me personally in the unsolicited testimony the Lord brought about in "Lilorfnannie" above. Though I didn't recognize that name I do know exactly who this is and the respect is mutual. Following my mentor Dr. Walter Martin the dialogue we have had with each other has been quite frank and seasoned in love.

However, this is a private approach to ministry similar to when the Pharisee Nicodemus came to the Master one-to One. And there's no doubt that he'd heard Jesus with some of His publically scathinng rebukes of the relgious leaders of Judaism.

I have said before, and so I say again, one needs to recognize the times in which they live and with that comes the methodology some of us are called to employ at times. As a pastor-teacher I am "preaching" to the crowd when I write an article, but when someone from that crowd - like a "Lilorfnannie" - approaches me for a discussion then I am able to show the other side.

Let me leave this as food for thought. Over twenty-five years ago Dr. Martin said: "Anyone who doesn't see that the Church is in a widespread apostasy does not know what is going on." (The Cult of Liberalism)

Not only are neo-liberals (at best) like Brian McLaren openly sowing division causing people to doubt the veracity of the Bible from within the our Lord's Church, he is now actually invited to do so to your pastors at the upcoming National Pastor's Convention 2007.

Ask youself, do I seriously think the Church is in better shape now than when Dr. Martin made the above statement?

Gavin Brown said...

Friends dont let friends use alliteration.

Chip said...

We need to be sure we speak the truth in love -- but speak the truth. Those who embrace false teaching will very likely be offended when that false teaching is held up to the scrutiny of Scripture. Even when we speak in love we may hear them cry "foul" by virtue of the fact their belief is being challenged. Just because one takes offense at the truth does not mean the messenger was offensive.

I've been a reader of Slice for some time and find them to be consistently gracious but firm. They speak the truth in love but do not apologize for speaking the truth.

rod said...

I came across Slice back in January during the "End of the Spear" controversy. Regardless of anyone's opinion or even the bottom line right/wrong, Slice was posting "quotes" and accusations about Steve Saint that were 3rd hand lies. It is never ok to lie to make the truth seem more true.
Though I am embarrassed by sarcasm, mockery, smirking, and Jr. High name calling justified (just yesterday on Slice) but saying that Jesus called people names), the thing that actually bothers me is misquotes, edited quotes, false attributions, and untruths that are used to discredit and mock others. It scares me that the Slice readership doesn't realize that these quotes are doctored for meaning because they are advised to avoid these people. When anyone simply posts the quote as it really appeared, the comment is rejected (my IP has been banned from commenting).
These things have escalated in the past couple weeks. There is a passage in 1 Kings in which Jeraboam uses scripture that warns against idolatry in order to justify his idolatry. Yesterday, Pastor Ken used Paul to assure us that we are commanded to have divisions in the Church. I am not permitted to ask Rev. Ken to help me with my faulty interpretation of this passage.

Even So... said...

Perhaps pontificating from a pastoral perspective perturbs you, Gavin, but my pugnacious pen will not be put to pasture by the pleas to placate those pretending to be persuasive with their perfunctory performance in the comments portion of Pyros…

I’ll stop now…

Even So... said...

Oh wait, love is not provoked...

Please pardon my preceding pleasantry...

Gavin Brown said...

Too-shay

TheBlueRaja said...

You're killin' me, D.J.!

Hayden said...

I have visited SLice from time to time and found some of the information helpful.

I myself am a Youth Pastor and agree with the assesment of Slice in their article on the "Bread and Circus" of youth ministry.

In seminary one of the professors had this to say, and I think it sums up my position on youth events.

"What you win them with, you often have to continue doing to keep them."

Mark Dever had a similar comment in his book The Deliberate Church- "What you win them with is what you win them to."

I pray that other youth ministers would not fall prey to the "bait and switch" methods outlined in the the Slice article. You cannot "accomplish" spiritual realities by manipulation of teh flesh.

Hayden

deborah s said...

Rod, Ken Silva has a web site called Apprising Ministries and there you have the ability to email Pastor Silva. I might be wrong but I am sure he would be glad to answer any questions you might have. Deborah Smith

Jay said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I have to agree with Chip and Rod. I look at Slice to see a side of things that is different from what is portrayed in other media. However, I also see lots of name calling and a sort of "I'm better than you" attitude there.

I would so love to have the same criticisms layed out in a more logical, objective manner.

I sometime agree, sometimes disagree with the general thrust of an article at Slice. When I first commented, my comment was accepted because it was in agreement, but then I once objected to a point being made, now I'm forever banned. Today I tried to post a positive comment about her grandfather, a man I knew, buy her computer rejected me.

So much for Discussion in Christian love.

David said...

In an interesting twist, this was in the NY times today

"Nevertheless, since such profoundly offensive content is appearing on a board clearly linked to *********, we believe you should assume some responsibility to respond to this hateful content," Foxman wrote in the letter, which was forwarded by *********'s campaign.

.......

Foxman wrote, "Those who allow hate to rear its ugly head under their auspices bear a special responsibility to distance themselves from that hate, and to speak out against it, as loudly as possible."


http://www.nypost.com/news/nationalnews/hateful_move_vs__joe_nationalnews_maggie_haberman.htm

You actually need to say nothing Phil - just let your "posse" here denegrate and smear Slice -

Chris L said...

I, too, have been banned from slice after entering a discussion with Ken a few weeks ago, simply disagreeing with some of his methods and prooftexting in a specific article.

Needless to say, the conversation is still going on at www.verumserum.com, since Slice's comment policy is so skewed.

Chris L said...

Also - just out of curiosity - is it GBA if you write an entire article associating Rob Bell with Karl Barth, when the only connection between the two is another of Bell's critics lumping the two together in the same sentence?

If so, today's article by Ken over on Slice might be a good example of GBA...

Bill said...

is it GBA if you write an entire article associating Rob Bell with Karl Barth, when the only connection between the two is another of Bell's critics lumping the two together in the same sentence?

No, not in the least. Silva is drawing a comparison between the philosophy of the two men, not making an accusation based upon an unrelated association. He's not saying "Bell is is a juicer because he endorsed Barth's book on Barry Bonds" (an unrelated event). He's saying that Bell's writings smack of the same philosophical stances as Barth's.

Chris L said...

Bill,

Thank you - good clarification.

Chris

Julie said...

I appreciate some of what Slice says, even though I am not allowed to comment there anymore. Though I no longer read it as often as I did, I find myself there once in a while and appreciate the efforts of the writers.

I'm not going to weigh in on this GBA, legalism, judgemental, "who's responsible for the commentors" argument, because I've already talked about that on my own blog and am not interested in doing so again. I will say this: I do not want to be the person who, in whatever good name and cause it is done, cuts up another ministry or what might be something of God, just because I don't see it that way.

I've done that a few times and I am fully responsible for my words and what effect they might have on another Christian or ministry. It isn't something to take lightly. I think there are things on the Slice blog that the authors will have to answer for some day, no matter how holy or just they thought they were in writing it.

In pointing out the error and seemingly crazy actions of other Christians, Slice has missed seeing some of their own errors and like-wise ridiculous assertions.

Slice has its place, though not on my blogroll.

REM said...

You have to think that some of the anger folks are feeling right now means they may not be familar with the terrain.

Some of us need not make a daily practice of going to watchblogs. They can get discouraging because of being too one sided (The rebuke side of II Tim 3:16-not that you can fully separate this verse from teaching, correcting, training). And that is okay, because, by a watchblogs own design, they are supposed to be heavy handed in a bent toward rebuke alone. It's why Slice just is what it is, even if they stink at conversation and need reminders to speak truth in love. And, yes, that is something we should hold them to :).

However, I don't want to get too cutesy with this, because I have yet to speak out against those clowns or puppets or muppets or whatever they are.

luvvom said...

David,
that link doesn't work. Are you sure you read what you thought you read?...can't find it.

David said...

Yes, it was there, it is just the NY Post (not the times, sorry) links only for the day - you have to go into the archives.

It was a commentary about how Moveon.org allows anti semetic comments on its website, and that they should be held responsible for moderating those comments.

David said...

Maggie Haberman is the author, it was in the 9-5-06 paper, page 10

search the archives for Moveon.org and you will get an abstract. For the full article you now have to pay

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Thanks for pointing out Slice, looks like a great site.

John said...

In regards to the Post: Slice Capades:

Shame on you for not calling Slice to Task. Why should anyone listen to "Discernment" Web sites that wont call to task their own when their own begin using insulting personal rhetoric that is as sloppy as anything the National Enquirer would write.

You dont have to join in the unjust criticism but someone needs to call Slice to task before they make all the Discernment web sites a laughing stock

Brendt said...

Here is what I find in a quick gleaning of less than one page of Slice:

* A poster refers to Rob Bell as "one of the emerging Hollow Men"
* A poster refers to PDL as a "protestant perversion" and equates it to the "pedophile scandals of the Catholic Church"
* A poster refers to Brian McLaren as a "Hollow Man"
* A poster refers to who-knows-what as "the Ecumenical Church of Deceit (ECoD)"
* While discussing the issue of Christians that are too green, a poster says, "Is the author concerned about the availability of baptism-suitable water? Will we run out of paper on which to print Bibles? I am in shock - someone pinch me."
* A poster refers to a Christian musician as a "singer of ill repute"
* A poster refers to Rick Warren as Baptist Press' "golden goose"
* A poster refers to the "Hollow Men in the Emergent Church"
* A poster (again) refers to who-knows-what as "the Ecumenical Church of Deceit"
* A poster refers to unspecified pastors as "wolves in sheep's clothing"

Conceptually, I agree with much of what is posted on Slice. But the spirit in which it is presented, and the oft-times snarkiness and seeming superiority that the site is bathed in, seems to indicate that Slice is fast becoming to Christianity what Ann Coulter is to conservatism -- a good bit of truth that gets thoroughly overwhelmed by and lost in embarrassing over-generalization and mis-characterization.

Is this a "threat to sound doctrine"? I doubt it. But two things come to mind. First, how many liberals have been won over to conservatism by Coulter (I won't bother painting the over-obvious parallel)? Second, why does Matthew 23:15 keep coming to mind?

Tyler said...

Wow. Just found this today, and; what can I say? You're a rockstar Phil.

"...some who claim to deplore the GBA fallacy insist I am ethically and morally responsible for anything they post at Slice. If they commit a fallacy, I share their guilt. By association."